Saturday, March 7, 2009

Under Our Skin: Chronic Lyme Disease

Last week I saw a screening of Under Our Skin a documentary about chronic Lyme Disease. It interweaves two stories. One is the personal journeys of a few individuals—the course of their illness and their struggles to cope. The other is that of the battle between a healthcare establishment that denies the existence of this disease and a few brave (or quack, depending on your perspective) doctors helping those individuals.

The pain, the suffering of those afflicted is undeniable. Their courage, in following the regimens of those pioneering doctors, is also undeniable. Both the practical difficulties and the side-effects are daunting. But, the results are spectacular. After years of destroyed lives, people are able to live fairly normal lives.

And yet, the dilemma facing the medical establishment is also made clear. The sufferers have a wide variety of symptoms—in the movie, several minutes go by as people rattle off their symptoms—and these seem to vary day-by-day, week-by-week, person-by-person. In addition, those pioneering doctors use an enormous cornucopia of medicines and other forms of treatment. Medicine is by nature and practice a reductive science. Something this amorphous simply cannot be accepted. Until “chronic Lyme Disease” can be identified much more crisply, it cannot be classified as a disease, and there can be no established treatment guidelines.

The film did not give me confidence that two sides could easily be reconciled. Perhaps the medical industry will give in to the forceful and emotional demands of sufferers to officially accept this disease and its treatments as legitimate. More likely, as shown in the film, the medical establishment will succeed in shutting down what they perceive to be quack-doctoring.

It is clear that both Lyme Disease sufferers and the medical establishment would benefit tremendously from Zume Life.

Individuals, and their families, would have far more success adhering to their complex regimens and keeping track of their myriad symptoms, with Zuri’s reminder and recording functions. They and their doctors would see more clearly and more quickly what works and what doesn’t, and change treatment appropriately.

The rich data captured by the Zume Life system would also permit medical scientists to better understand the situation. Sophisticated data analysis techniques could be applied, resulting in conclusions acceptable to the medical community. Perhaps everyone will be able to see “chronic Lyme Disease” as clearly as its proponents do today. Or perhaps we will find that there are in fact several distinct conditions, each having its own unique signature of symptoms and appropriate treatment.

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